Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Crying Indian of Fields Road


I live on a beautiful country road, surrounded on either side by farms. At one end, Farmer Bob, with eyeglass lenses thick as hockey pucks, sparse teeth, and pants belted around his armpits, rotates his soybean crop with corn. This year its seventy-five acres of edamame, curling and leafy, low to the ground. Last year it was corn, into whose arching rows my children walked with fingers outstretched, finding feathers, and the antler of a buck.

Where our street T's off into another, belted cows, black with a white stripe in the middle like bovine ice cream sandwiches, low at the crossing. This road, Geauga Lake (Gee-aw-guh), curls its elbow around another beautiful farm, just past the river, that grows cutting flowers and veg, and is tended through an outreach program by kids in trouble and grown-ups who want to help them by pressing their open hands into the dark earth and showing them that they can make magic by pinching back flowers and planting seeds. Neither of these roads has painted stripes or shoulders, its just gritty black top without speed limit signs, that slopes down on either side, forming a ditch into which rainwater channels its way to the river and beyond. Much of the land by the river has been donated by private citizens, like toothless Bob, to the Aurora Branch of the Cuyahoga River Conservancy, preserving it for all eternity for wildlife and humanity.

If you follow Geauga Lake Road, it passes some very hick homes with slanted porches and giant woodpiles, and then a couple of ramshackle horse properties. If you follow it far enough, about three miles, and fail to use your breaks, you will smash your car through the wall of the health and beauty section of Wal-mart and roll to a stop in automotive. This parking lot is shared by McDonalds, Target, Kohls, Marshalls, and The Home Depot.

The point being, this preserve of the natural that we lovingly call home, shares a zip code with every single clam-shell pacakged, shrink-wrapped, palletted piece of shit you'd ever want to throw onto the landfill. All the scuzz pots can be found boiling over just a short drive from the mother goose who nervously tends her nest on the pilings of the bridge that crosses over our little branch of river.

Many people familiar with the area love this street, and travel its curving splendor to get to parts southerly, enjoying the surge of oxygen through their open windows.

Still other people travel this road without loving it at all, to get to the festering retail carbunkle without the hinderance of posted traffic rules or painted lines. Their mania for bar coding is so lustful and blinding that they tear through this solemn route at lunatic speeds, daring children at driveways end and elderly checking mailboxes to step out without looking. "DO IT!" the cars dopler past them, sucking up hems in their wake, tossing their innocent hair. At the hairpin that crests the hill, where there is nothing but trees, no houses, no spies, they roll down their windows, and seeing the beauty of those ancient trees, the mossy ground - they hurl their forty ounce plastic cups, and the cubic foot of crumpled waste that is a Happy Meal, or #1 with Coke, onto the fragrant beds of composting leaf hummus. I've seen a Marshalls bag billowing desperately on the lower branches of this shady passage, and cigarette butts still smoldering in the ditch.

What urge propels these passers-by when seeing such quiet splendor to fuck it up with their grotesque detritus? Is it anger at the cows for their voluptous languor? Or ire at the trees for ascending so effortlessly toward heaven? What makes a person hurl their permanent crap onto the carpet of the divine?

Littering seems so outdated. Something I felt sure, as a culture, we'd outgrown, like Thalidamide, Quaaludes and the typewriter. Don't we recall the PSA of the Native American, nee Indian, with the tear running down his cheek having had trash thrown from a speeding car onto his mocassins? I do. And I feel his pain.

"People start pollution. People can stop it."

Or shoot out the tires of the people who continue to soil my moccasins.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Safety Town


As Kindergarten approaches for my little boy, and all the five year olds of the land, here in sub-rural-burbia, the time for Safety Town begins. This is a sweet program sponsored by the township and its various men-in-uniform, fire and police, who fill the school gym with squirrely pre-school graduates in order to teach them how to better behave in the face of certain hazards. They set up a wee town, made of waist-high wooden buildings, with a real traffic signal at its center and the kids ride little pedal cars around and try not to make mince meat of basic traffic rules.

The volunteer cops with their real guns teach the kids about gun safety, about how not to touch them if they come across one leaning on their drunken neighbor's La-Z-boy after he's fallen asleep with a fifth on the fourth. Out here, this scenario is not all that unlikely. We have our very own anti-social neighbor who likes to spray the hillside with .22 fire in honor of our nation's heave-ho of British colonialism once a year. So a little precautionary fire arm talk feels relevant and good.

There's a lot of good information handed down through Safety Town. Don't cross the street between cars, stop-drop-and-roll, buckle up, 9-1-1, how to avoid lurky pervs, how to get on the school bus in an orderly fashion and memorize your home phone number. I loves me some Safety Town!

When I grew up in New York City we had Safety Town too. It looked a little different, but its lessons were similar. It went a little something like this:

Here's Dad's credit card. If it isn't over limit or cut off due to divorce maneuverings, go down to Gimbels on 86th street and buy some hamster supplies with it. You can take the bus if you want, or just walk. That bum who hangs out on the subway grate on Lexington, don't talk to him, he's probably a crazy person who likes to hurt children. If you get hungry for lunch you can stop at Papaya King and get a hot dog. If you want to go over to Patrick's house, go ahead. His mom's not home, so you wont be any trouble over there. Don't be a nuisance. Don't ring the elevator buttons too much. You can see a movie, but if its R-rated you'll have to ask an adult to buy your ticket. If you're running late, hop in a cab and be home by 5. 6PM is "grown-up hour" which means you're not allowed to bother the adults with your childish presence or demands for food. Dinner will be ready when its ready, and you'll eat it, or you'll have to wait for breakfast and three bowls of unsupervised Cap-'N-Crunch. Now go, and don't forget your key, we may be out when you get home.

I like our little wooden town with its dangers and hand signals, its coloring pages and graduation t-shirts. I like that I recognize the fire chief and the cop who taught my daughter about stranger danger. I don't kid myself that we're in fact any safer here than I was in latch-key 70's New York City, but I like it that we try.

If things get really out of control, I can always borrow some ammo from my neighbor and shoot the pervs myself.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Day In Single Syllables

We sat on the chairs. Watched them splash and dive for stuff. Float toys wrap their waists like bows. Two piece suits hiked all up. Tops tugged here and there. "Watch ME!"they shout as they think of a trick. They want us to look and we do. Lounge chairs stick to our butts. We sip cokes, tell our tales. Our lives we share in facts. The girls splash and ask for ice cream. "Most moms wont let their three year old jump off the board in the deep end." She says. "But she loves it. She has no fear. I gave her that." And so she did. No one could say she did not.

This friend is bold. Brave. When folks give her stuff she says, "Thank You" and never "No thanks." She will take the gifts. All of them. No qualms for help. She takes it.

"Live here." she says. "There is worth here that is more than the cost. You get more than what you pay for, even though you pay a lot." "Think of what you want and write it down. You will get it. Write it down as it should be, in pure form. That way the force can give it to you and not have to think about it. The force wont think. It will move down the list. Skip you." I am sure she is right.

The girls ask, "How soon will we go? Is it time?" Their hair flat and wet. They are prunes and spent. We have had sun and talk. We are spent too. We all pile in the van. The small one sleeps like a bird, with her beak tucked in her wing. Her neck all hung down.

Their suits are all dirt from the wet tree climb. Oh those girls. The one who says, "When I grow up I want to be wild." Oh jeez, her mom's eyes roll. "What am I in for?"

But it all looks good to me.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I've Moved A Lot

1. 19 East 88th street, NY - Learned to ride without training wheels in front of the Guggenheim museum.

2. 126 E. 95th, NY - Lived in a browstone, sold hastily during my parents divorce.  Mentioning this place, still pisses off my dad.

3. 444 E. 82nd, NY- On the 25th floor with my mom and step-dad, my hamster died here.
 
4.  Garcia St. Santa Fe, NM - Rode roller skates the entire year I lived here. 

5. Fiske St, Pacific Palisades, CA - Was repeatedly molested by my guitar teacher the whole year I lived here.

6. Five different dorm rooms, The Cambridge School of Weston - All good. 

7. Huron Ave., Cambridge, MA - Mom and David lived here. Fell in love with Casey here.

8. Hillary and Trudy's house, Huron Ave. Cambridge, MA - Mom left David, friends took us in.

9. Elliot St., Cambridge Ma.- one bedroom with Mom, senior year.

10. Greg Cushna's House, Newton Highlands, MA - mom moves to california. No where to go, move in with boyfriend's family.

11. Orchard Hill, Umass, Amherst - heinous dorm experience, roommate tries to beat me up. Meet friends for life.

12. Puffton Village, Amherst MA - first off-campus housing. Smelly, but fun.

13. Columbus Avenue, Boston - with Sioux, lost summer. Very fun.

14. Weird little Summer apartment, Amherst Ma - First time living solo.  Great summer. Photo school. 

15. Main Street, Northampton, MA with Deb Polansky - so fun. 

16. Massasoit St., Nothampton, MA with Megan Jasper and Sheila and the guy who died in the fire. - Constantly running out of heating oil, filling with $50 a time.  Lean. Strange. Often fun. Dated Cross dresser.

17. 22 Graves Ave. Northampton MA, with Rob Skelton, Henry, etc. - Rock house. Pancakes always offered to company in the after hours. Fell in love with Jason here.

18. 3(?)Main Street, Northampton, MA with Jason Loewenstien, Henry Bruner, Dan Goodin - Met Vild for the 1st time here.

19. 30 Main Street, Northampton, MA, with only Jason - first love nest. 
 
20 676 Geary, tenderloin, SF, CA - On my own again in the loin. Sexually harassed at first fashion-industry job.

21. National Blvd. Los Angeles, CA - Tiny little birdhouse. 100 square feet? Slugs crawled into shower. Like living in a boat. 

22. Culver Blvd. Los Angeles, CA - one bedroom. Broken into. Big Earthquake.

23. 18th/Sanchez, SF, CA - Commuted to Hayward. one-hour each way. Five years.

24. Shenandoah, Los Angeles, CA - biked to work in hollywood. Lived near my sister. Good year.

25. 3145 Meadowbrook, Cleveland Heights, Oh - Moved to ohio to be with Vild.

26. 2585 Idlewood, Cleveland Heights, OH - Had my babies here. 

27. 7444 Fields Road, Chagrin Falls, OH - living la vida loca.